MADRID – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Sunday that global efforts to prevent climate change have been "totally inadequate" so far and there is a danger that global warming could go beyond the "point of no return".
Speaking ahead of Monday's start of a two-week international climate conference in Madrid, the UN chief said the impact of rising temperatures – including more extreme weather conditions – is already being felt around the world, with dramatic consequences. for humans and other species.
He noted that the world has scientific knowledge and technical means to limit global warming, but "what is lacking is political will."
"The point of no return is no longer on the horizon," Guterres told reporters in the Spanish capital. "It is in sight and advancing toward us."
Delegates from almost 200 countries will try to put the finishing touches to the rules governing the 2015 Paris climate agreement at the December 2-13 meeting, including how to create functioning international emissions trading systems and compensate poor countries for the losses suffered by the Sea rise. levels and other consequences of climate change.
Guterres cited growing scientific evidence of the impact greenhouse gas emissions are already having on the planet, including record temperatures and melting polar ice.
But he insisted that his message was "of hope, not despair. Our war on nature must stop and we know this is possible."
Countries agreed in Paris four years ago to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, ideally at 1.5 ° C by the end of the century compared to pre-industrial times. Average temperatures have already risen by about 1 ° C, leaving little room for the most ambitious goal to be reached.
Guterres said the growing demands of citizens, especially young people, show a widespread desire for climate action.
"What remains is political will," he said. “Political will to put a price on carbon. Political will to stop subsidizing fossil fuels. Political will to stop building coal plants from 2020. Political will to shift income tax to carbon. instead of people ".
Guterres noted that about 70 countries – many of them among the most vulnerable to climate change – pledged to stop emitting more greenhouse gases by 2050.
"But we also clearly see that the world's biggest emitters are not pushing. And without them, our goal is unreachable," he said.
The UN chief said he hoped the Madrid meeting would make governments make more ambitious promises ahead of schedule next year.
Guterres also announced that current Bank of England Governor Mark Carney will become his new special envoy for "climate action and climate finance" starting next year.
Jordans reported from Berlin.